warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Four New Legless Lizards Species Discovered

Janelle Cabuco |
October 5, 2013 | 1:13 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


Lialis burtonis, also known as Burton’s legless lizard (Flickr Creative Commons/Matt).
Lialis burtonis, also known as Burton’s legless lizard (Flickr Creative Commons/Matt).
Scientists have discovered four new species of legless lizards in California, bringing the number of known legless lizard species up from one to five in California.

These species were collected over a 14-year period. One in particular, the Anniella stebbinsi, lives in dunes west of Los Angeles International Airport.

The remaining three lizards were found in San Joaquin Valley. The yellow-bellied Anniella campi was found in the outskirts of the Mojave Desert, the silver-bellied Anniella alexanderae was found in oilfields near the city of Taft, and the purple-bellied Anniella grinnelli was found in Bakersfield’s vacant lots.

These four species grow up to eight inches long and were named after well-known scientists at the University of California, Berkeley.

Legless lizards, unlike snakes, spend most of their lives underground, only coming to the surface when they can hide under objects like wood, logs, or cardboard. 

The yellow-bellied Anniella stebbinsi was found under lead litter, but the remaining three other lizards  were discovered after researchers places thousands of slips of cardboard and pieces of plywood at various sites.

Though it is difficult to distinguish a legless lizard from a snake, legless lizards do have some distinct traits. Legless lizards’ main source of food is insects and larvae; they have external ear openings and moveable eyelids. Snakes, on the other hand, do not have eyelids. In addition, they don’t shed their skin in one piece like snakes do. Legless lizards also tend to be more rigid when moving.

According to scientists, there are more than 200 species of legless lizards worldwide.

All of these legless lizards have actually been collected before and preserved in museums and laboratories, but they were never examined and were thought to be a part of another legless lizard species, the Anniella pulchra. 

Since these lizards live in a very small area, only a few square feet, and spend most of their time underground, researchers suspect that there may be more undocumented lizards within the area. 



Reach Staff Reporter Janelle Cabuco here



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.